Pretoria - Patients and medical staff at Steve Biko Academic Hospital now have access to free wi-fi – a first for a public hospital in Africa.
The hospital launched the free service on Wednesday. The first phase includes the patient registration and waiting areas, the main pharmacy and dispensary, the casualties unit, two coffee shops and the boardroom on level five.
“Subsequent phases will eventually make the whole hospital one big ‘hotspot’,” said Dr Ernest Kenoshi, chief executive of the hospital.
Many patients in the hospital are indigent and cannot afford the cost of private health care.
From April last year to March, the hospital treated more than 429 000 outpatients, more than 40 700 patients were admitted to hospital and more than 32 600 treated in the emergency unit.
In partnership with Nano Solutions and Technologies, the first phase of the wi-fi services was launched, enabling people who otherwise would have no access to the internet to browse the web.
Patients and doctors do not require a password and can simply access the internet. There are no data limitations. Pornographic websites are blocked and the more people download large files, the slower the internet connection will be.
As a result, doctors will have faster access to results of laboratory tests performed on patients in the hospital because the National Laboratory Health Service posts laboratory results on its website.
“This will improve patient care and informed treatment,” Kenoshi said.
Sharon Tshabalala, founder and managing director of Nano Solutions and Technologies, said: “Patients, especially those from needy backgrounds will be given the opportunity to enjoy internet exposure and connection.”
She said the company generated revenue to fund the data costs through advertising on the access portal. “End users enjoy free data communication while the advertisers have direct access to a captive audience,” she said.
By the end of the year the company wants to ensure that at least 10 public hospitals have access to free wi-fi. “The technological benefit this service brings to such institutions is astronomical, and at no cost to the taxpayer,” she said.
The City of Tshwane introduced a similar service – anyone can connect to the internet (250MB data per device a day), at Church Square, the Tshwane University of Technology’s Soshanguve campus, the University of Pretoria’s Hatfield campus, Tshwane North College and the Mamelodi Community Centre, early this year.
The roll-out has since shifted to schools, focusing on Mamelodi, Soshanguve and Atteridgeville.